US Coins

Von NotHaus guilty on all counts

Bernard von NotHaus, found guilty in his federal counterfeiting trial in Statesville, N.C., March 18, will appeal, his attorney, Randall Lee, said shortly after the verdict.

However, an appeal cannot be filed until the sentencing, and no date has been set for that.

U.S. District Judge Richard L. Voorhees said the sentencing hearing would be “several months from now.”

Von NotHaus, of Honolulu, was found guilty on all four counts — “of making coins resembling and similar to United States coins; of issuing, passing, selling, and possessing Liberty Dollar coins; of issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money; and of conspiracy against the United States,” according to the Department of Justice. The jury got the case at 4:30 p.m. March 17, chose a jury foreman, then left for the day. It began deliberations at 9 a.m. March 18 and reached a verdict within 90 minutes.

Von NotHaus and his common-law wife, Talena “Telle” Presley, were stunned by the verdict.

Von NotHaus, who remains free on bond, faces a sentence of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000 on count two of the indictment, and a prison sentence of five years and fines of $250,000 on both counts one and three.

Prior to the verdict March 18, Von NotHaus appeared confident. Dressed in khaki slacks and a red plaid shirt, he said that Lee is his fourth attorney since his federal arrest more than two years ago. Von NotHaus said that since the government seized his business, he could not afford to hire an attorney, and the first few attorneys the government provided urged him to “cop a plea.”

“Ninety-five percent of federal defendants do that,” he said, shaking his head.

However, he refused.

From 1998 until late 2007, Von NotHaus’s company, the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act (NORFED), had manufactured what he called Liberty Dollars, both in “medallions” and bills of $1, $5, $10 and then $20. They were backed by silver and minted by the private Sunshine Mint in Idaho.

Liberty Dollars were marketed by people who paid $1,000 to become regional currency officers, then purchased the product and sold it to merchants in cities across the country.

In his two-day testimony, Von NotHaus said the RCOs were trained in how to speak to merchants, being careful not to call the pieces “legal tender.” People who were nervous after accepting them could exchange them for cash, he said.

After the verdict, forfeiture discussions began regarding cash, computers and other material belonging to von NotHaus and dozens of others who had invested in or become part of the venture.

A federal investigation began when an Asheville, N.C., woman who had a Liberty Dollar became suspicious after seeing a television piece on it and called the FBI.

The trial, which began March 7, was originally set to last five or six weeks. Von NotHaus had planned to call more than 100 defense witnesses, but after the government’s part of the trial took just two days, Von NotHaus and Lee whittled that number down. Fewer than eight witnesses testified in less than four days the week of March 14.

Von NotHaus dissolved NORCOM in 2007 but continued producing the silver Liberty Dollars under the name Liberty Services. That means he personally, not his corporation, will be affected by the verdict.

Three other Liberty Services employees in its Evansville, Ind., office, and William Kevin Innes, a RCO who was active on the NORFED board, are scheduled to go to trial in May. Originally, the four — that trio, plus von NotHaus — had expected to be tried together, but several months ago, Von NotHaus learned he would stand trial separately, and first.

After the trial ended on the afternoon of March 18, Von NotHaus stood in the warm spring sun outside the courthouse and said he has no regrets about establishing and promoting the Liberty Dollar.

“It’s like having kids,” he said. “You may run into problems, but you’re never sorry you had them.” ¦

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